Archbishop Burke – An Exemplary Catholic Citizen

The Citizen has goals in life. As I grow older, the list grows longer. The latest goal is to have the opportunity to meet Archbishop Burke someday. To be candid, I knew little about him before this month, but his address at the National Catholic Day of Prayer was truly inspirational.

Although I no longer have my residence in our beloved nation, I am no less bound to practice the virtue of patriotism, taught and exemplified by Our Lord during His public ministry. It is Our Lord Who gives us, in the Church, the grace to practice patriotism as a fundamental expression of the bond of charity which we have, in Him, with our fellow citizens.

Charity. This is a very important choice of word. Despite our political differences, it is important that the Catholic in America practice charity to others. This is not, however, to say that we need to tolerate practices contrary to our faith.  Archbishop Burke demonstrates this distinction when he discusses the pro-abortion stance embraced by the current administration. He  paints a dark road that this nation has taken it’s first steps down – first the unborn, then the elderly or infirm. Indeed, just recently, the first legal doctor-assisted suicide occurred in the state of Washington. Another step down the path…

His defense of marriage is masterful:

With unparalleled arrogance, our nation is choosing to renounce its foundation upon the faithful, indissoluble, and inherently procreative love of a man and a woman in marriage, and, in violation of what nature itself teaches us, to replace it with a so-called marital relationship, according to the definition of those who exercise the greatest power in our society.

The ability of the minority to enforce their will on the majority is lamentable. And it is occurring across the nation. The sovereign people of California – in free and open elections – overwhelmingly affirmed the institution of marriage as a union of a man and a woman.Proposition 8 carried with a 52% majority – if Obama supporters can call their win a ‘mandate’, then the logic extends to this vote as well.  But despite the constitutionally binding imposition of sovereign power, the Justices of the California Supreme Court have usurped the will of the majority and announced they will be rendering their decision on Tuesday. Regardless of their decision, the hubris of this court is amazing. In Connecticut, the General Assembly rammed gay marriage through the legislative process using a barrage of parliamentary trickery. I call on the citizens of Connecticut to demand that this question be put to the vote – by the people. Other states are  resorting to similar tactics to impose the will of the minority on the majority.

He called for us to embrace the hope that a loving God offers us  to console and uplift our hearts as we are forced to live through this dark time in American history. And he lamented the actions of our Catholic brothers and sisters in public life who have so painfully divided our church – and called non Catholics to question the nature of our position on issues of life.

Like President Obama, Archbishop Burke called for Change in America – a change from the ‘culture of death’ that this administration is championing.  And he shares with us how we can be the agents of this change.

He referred to dual virtues that co-exist…patriotism and the virtues of the ‘Holy Spirit dwelling within us.’ And he calls us to pray and reflect. He knows that in prayer we can find the answers to all things. The Citizen was not always a staunch advocate for the pro-life movement. Even as my wife became more involved in such activities as 40 Days for Life, I was reluctant to ‘get involved.’ What did my wife do? She prayed. Probably a lot. And in time, I felt drawn to delve deeper into this most divisive of issues for Americans – and Catholics. As I read, prayed, and reflected, I developed a deeper understanding of God’s will on this issue. I began to understand – intellectually and spiritually – the need for every Catholic to ardently and enthusiastically work to make abortion irrelevant in America. Of all of Archbishop Burke’s arguments, this one felt like he was talking to me personally. And it was a wonderful recognition of his wisdom. For nothing else, his speech was a personal gift.

He called upon Catholics to fight – to fight with prayer. To pray for a healing of our nation, for a change of heart for many of our politicians and other public servants. Moreover, to be a witness for the injustices in our schools and universities, in our communities and our nation. He called on us to ‘work tirelessly to change unjust programs, policies, and laws.’ And how do we do this?

We read. We reflect. We pray for wisdom. And we organize. We meet, we band together, we assert our sovereign power to influence legislation and those who craft them. We recruit Catholic politicians, support them, get them elected, and – in doing so – we take our place at the table. Conversely, we need to oppose those politicians who don’t support our values. As another cycle of elections warm up in Washington, Catholics need to take a good look at their representatives and those who will run against them. What is their record on abortion? If they support abortion, they support an ‘intrinsic evil’ according to the Catechism – and they must be rejected. Ask the candidates what their position is on this issue and others that reflect the values the Archbishop discussed.

Towards his closing remarks, he makes a powerful statement – one that we all should seriously consider:

Our efforts to assist those who are tempted to do what is always and everywhere wrong or are suffering from the effects of having committed a gravely immoral act, which are essential expressions of the charity which unites us as citizens of the nation, ultimately make little sense, if we remain idle regarding unjust laws and decisions of the courts regarding the same intrinsic evils. We are never justified in abandoning the work of changing legislation and of reversing decisions of the courts which are anti-life and anti-family.

We cannot remain idle. It makes no sense. We must fight Rowe V Wade, we must oppose abortion. It is a cornerstone of our fight. Recently, Gallup released a poll that indicated that Americans were trending pro-life for the first time since 1994. The pendulum is turning our way. And – despite the promises of other worthy programs – abortion is one issue that we cannot compromise on. Ever. Neville Chamberlain taught us the folly of compromise – especially if the only compromising is performed by one party. Chamberlain thought that giving in on some issues would give him a stronger bargaining position on others. He thought that if he gave Hitler what he wanted ‘this time’, he would be content. We know how that policy turned out.

Thank you Archbishop Burke. There will be a time when Catholics and other people of Faith will remember your words as one of the inspirations for the movement that restored the integrity of ‘One nation, Under God.’ Our nation.

May God bless you all!

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